He looked around the standard table set
With standard plates, and thought again of Egypt.
Nothing reminded him that Arkansas
Had once sounded like sanity and peace.
No-–He’d sacrificed for anthropology
And not complained to lose the family ties.
That had been the life! No striped tie
Constricting thought and speech; no rigid set
Of guidelines; no quaint anthropology
Professors–-glib-–describing the Egypt
They would never see. (If you see a piece
Of mummy shroud... That’s luck in Arkansas!)
Once the desert had blazed, and Arkansas
Had been his mind’s oasis; and he tied
The pictures of the hills to the piece
Of canvas that hung from the tent pole; set
His table with standard plates. No, Egypt
Did not woo him then–just anthropology.
“Ben, speak to your aunt!” “No, apologies
Not needed!” Continuing–- “Harve can saw
The winter wood; I watch him close. He gypped
Me last time, you know.” The women’s voices tied
Him to the table that he’d thought an asset
When it was harder to get black-eyed peas.
Now, sitting with the aunts, he found the dreams of peace
Difficult to reconcile with aunts’ psychology.
They gave him back his room, gave him a set
Of fresh-washed sheets that smelled of Arkansas
Rainwater. And if they thought these adequate entice-
ments to stay home... well, they’d never been to Egypt.
“If I could go back!”–-Making all the Egyptian
Dreams into the impotent importuning of a peace
That had never existed–- “If I could go, tie
My backpack to my shoulders... a shovel, an Anthropology
Today... Then I believe I could love Arkansas,
Love everything about it–stupid people, stupid college, stupid mind set.”
At night he dreamed in Egyptian of things that anthropology
Never taught him: that peace was a word that Arkansas
Could not create; and the enticements of Egypt were only yearnings for the flowered dinner set.
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